Collaborative Duos- Part 1

The Present Tense was built out of Sandrine Schaefer and Philip Fryer‘s long time collaboration.  Because of this, we have always held collaborative duos close to our hearts.  Next month, LONG-TERM, a live art event curated by Sandrine Schaefer and Adriana Disman that features the work of various artist duos who investigate extended duration, will come to Toronto’s Hub 14.  In honor of this upcoming event and our sustained love of artists who choose to make work together, The Present Tense has revisited the archives to bring you a few videos from artist duos we have exhibited through the years.  To begin, we are sharing excerpts from Sandrine and Phil’s 17 year “Cicada Project.”  Then we revisit the Contaminate Festival to share Mari Novotny-Jones & Kristina Lenzi and Coach TV.  We also bring you JV‘s “Trapped” at the Seconds Festival, The Royal Najo Family at PT3 and Tomoko Kakeda and Joanne Stein at PT5.  Enjoy!



Sandrine Schaefer & Philip Fryer “Cicada Project” 2006-2023

Philip Fryer & Sandrine Schaefer from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Cicada Project 8.2010 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

3CiadasFinal from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Mari Novotny Jones & Kristina Lenzi at the Contaminate 3 International Performance Art Festival curated by The Present Tense & TEST 2008

Mari Novotny Jones and Kristina Lenzi @ Contaminate 3 2008 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Tomoko Kakeda & Joanne Stein  at PT5 curated by The Present Tense 2007

Tomoko Kakeda & Joanne Stein@ PT5 2007 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Royal Najo Family at PT3 curated by The Present Tense 2007

Royal Najo Family @ PT3 2007 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

JV at the Seconds International Performance Art Festival curated by The Present Tense 2006

JV @ Seconds 2006 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Coach TV at the Contaminate 1 International Performance Art Festival curated by The Present Tense & TEST 2006

Coach TV @ Contaminate 1 2006 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Bicycle Series- “Learning to Ride a Bike” 2007 Sandrine Schaefer

The Present Tense loves bikes.  What’s not to love?  Bikes are an environmental way to get from Point A to Point B, they are interesting objects, and most of all they are FUN!  The Present Tense Co-Founder, Sandrine Schaefer hasn’t always had the joyful relationship with bikes that she does now.  Severe Asthma and allergies prevented Sandrine from having the signature childhood experience of learning how to ride a bike.  At the age of 26, with strong lungs, Sandrine decided to gift herself this experience.  The other Present Tense Co-Founder, Philip Fryer gathered bike parts with their friend, Ryan Stantis and Ryan built her the bicycle of her dreams!  She invited her friends to join her in an interactive performance where they could teach her how to ride her bike.  She also invited the crowd to name her bike and asked them to gift her a trophy when they collectively decided that she had demonstrated the basic skills needed for bike riding.  This is footage from the performance.


4 years later, Sandrine and her beloved “Jersey Devil” have went on countless adventures and are looking forward to a beautiful life together.

Bicycle Series-“Tour de Fantasy” Mark Action

Mark Action is not an artist, but an undercover defector of the art world, undermining its monopoly on creativity since 1984. He was formally trained as an Art Theoretician before escaping a sterile academia to become a clandestine charismatic cult leader. He aims to sabotage and expose the art world’s degeneration of the Holy Spirit and liberate creativity by using inspiration to empower us all to get Real.

In 2006, Mark Action infiltrated the administration of a major art institution. He developed nepotistic relations with staff members who surreptitiously supported him sabotaging a significant annual art gala, which perpetuates the manufacturing of art stars and their decorous artifice to an expectant audience. His plan was to enter a work into this group show that would disrupt the audience’s awareness of other art around it by drawing more attention to itself or by creating an annoyance that distracts the audience’s ability to focus on other art. The main idea was to ride a bicycle on stationary rollers in the gallery. This simple act was absurd enough to subvert the audience’s expectations for the gala, and the profuse aroma of sweat, coupled with the sound of gears changing, chains spinning, and wheel whizzing would make for an obnoxious spectacle that was sure to garner a perplexed crowd into an impenetrable hoard. In preparing for the event, this simple idea began taking on more dimension as Mark Action created an over the top interactive exhibition spoofing on the legacy of Lance Armstrong.

In the early 2000’s, after conquering testicular cancer, Lance Armstrong began his relentless pursuit to capture the world record of seven consecutive Tour de France victories, a bicycle race famed as history’s most difficult athletic challenge. It was the first time an American began dominating this 100-year-old French bicycle race, and the effect Armstrong had on the post-9/11 American psyche was heroic. Not only was he a cancer survivor, a Texan, and a personal friend of president George W. Bush, but he became a superhero demigod fighting to liberate the champion within us all. On any given weekend, one could find a myriad of suburban cycling devotees sporting one of Armstrong’s different spandex team jerseys and a yellow rubber Livestrong bracelet. Few were even lucky enough to be able to afford his signature Trek Madone SL bicycle.

These weekend warriors worshiped Armstrong’s celebrity, and pedaled reverently to transcend their mortal limitations and deliver their souls into extra-ordinary states of being. They appeared as blissful young children, playing in costume, zooming about fantasizing themselves to be Superman. And indeed, the euphoria these warriors could conjure is enough to elevate their adrenaline and carry them beyond the pain of their ordinary cycling abilities, into the sublime.

In homage to the ascension of Armstrong and the power of imagination to transport one to greater realities, Mark Action created the Tour de Fantasy. The Tour de Fantasy included an altar encasing relics from Armstrong’s cycling career and Trek-sponsored scratch and win tickets for the thrilling chance to possess a piece of Armstrong’s legacy.

In front of the altar, Mark Action constructed a sacred virtual portal in which he rode his bicycle, climbing 10,000 feet up Alp d’Huez with Armstrong and the world’s greatest cyclists in the Tour de France. The crowd went wild, cheering with excitement, ringing bells, donning flags, and running along side individual riders for a brief communion with glory. As gallery visitors gravitated toward the Tour de Fantasy’s hypnotic audio-visual cycling extravaganza, Mark Action spiritedly rode into ascension and touched the true source of his own inner power, becoming for an eternal moment, the Godhead.

Rope Series: Lewis Gesner

“I use rope and string often, because it is a simple material which allows great control (few moving parts) as well as flexibility. It is a direct use as well, often when pulled tightly, giving the the most direct path to what is at the other end. To pull, to bind, to control, to suspend, these are all simple or atomic functions which use of string or rope allows an unmediated experience of. It is an obvious and simple choice for many purposes that might involve exploring rudimentary performance concerns.” – Lewis Gesner

excerpt from “Voice Throttle,”  2010  location: Nanhai Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan

This was an illustration of Gesner’s ideas concerning simple actions during a lecture.  The artist uses voice and rope to manipulate sound and mechanism.

excerpt from “Draggin,” 2006  location: KriKri festival, Gent, Belgium

Gesner lead the audience to attach string and sticks to their legs.  Together, the artist and audience walked through streets to next performance area.  The sticks served as plectrums on various street surfaces

Lewis Gesner has been presenting action and performance based work for several decades, and works internationally at various venues. Working toward simplification of means and materials, he follows a path of simple atomic art, or, irreducible matters in presentation. His lives in the US and Taiwan, and is a member of mobius artists group, presently on leave. 

Jeffery Byrd @ Contaminate I

2010 began with a sip of Champagne poured from a bottle adorned with purple and pink butterflies, a fitting gift from my boss. 2009 was a year of grandiose change. This archive came to fruition, Meme Gallery made its debut, The Present Tense’s physical headquarters took flight, and on a personal note, my body shape- shifted. As I indulged in my bubbly, I was reminded of one of the most haunting transformations The Present Tense has encountered to date, coincidentally titled “Butterfly”.

In this piece, Jeffrey Byrd, an Iowa-based performance and video artist transforms from Maria Callas to Brittney Spears right before our eyes. He begins with a somber nod to Butoh and moves through a myriad of emotions. By the end, we have experienced Jeffrey’s rendition of Madame Butterfly while watching him expose a deep piece of his imagination that has inspired laughter and a sense of hope. Reminiscing about this piece prompted me to spend some time on Jeffrey’s website. I giggled through Jeff performing household chores dressed as a Stormtrooper and I cheered him on as he attempted to scale walls in a sexy Spiderman suit. My heart melted while watching a video of a Mephisto, a comic book character dancing in his underwear. I fantasized about what it would be like if I made an effort to retain my own creativity at work by tap dancing on my desk like Jeff did in “Tap Desk”. In this exploration, I noticed Jeff had chosen to include a quote from Sebastian Horsley on his site. “We are what we pretend to be”. If only we all could follow Jeff’s lead and spend more time pretending, the powers of our imaginations could truly and genuinely be realized.